Author's Note: As this is going to be a longish story, I'd like to get a few things out of the way from the beginning.

I hate when people blackmail their readers by refusing to post new chapters without a certain number of reviews, and will never do that here. I don't see writing as a competition, and the number of reviews I get for a story doesn't matter to me. If I get 2 reviews or 2000, it's all the same to me.

That said, I also prefer not to receive reviews bashing particular characters, pairings, or whatever. You don't like that Kagome's a main character? Or who I'm pairing her with? Stop reading.

Things with Midoriko will make more sense if you read my other story, A Thousand Years, which is a prequel to this one. This story takes place 7 years after Kagome's first trip through the well to Sengoku Jidai.

DISCLAIMER: I have only seen the first 50 episodes of Inuyasha, and have researched as much as I can, so please tell me if I get canon, characterization, continuity, or anything else wrong. I WANT TO KNOW. Really. Don't be shy.

I hope you enjoy reading this story as much as I'm enjoying writing it. Since smut is not able to be posted here on , I will be uploading any lemony chapters with just an excerpt here… the entire lemon will be available on my Yahoo group. If you don't read the lemon-chapters, never fear: you won't be missing out on any storyline. The only thing that occurs during the smut is smut, not plot progression or character development.

One Less Star, Part 1
Chapter 1
By CinnamonGrrl

How is it possible, Kagome wondered when it was all over, to win the war but lose the battle?

The combat they'd both longed for, and dreaded; the victory they'd never really even hoped would come. It felt hollow, and Kagome could not locate even a smidgen of satisfaction as she gripped one half the Shikon no Tama in each hand. There lacked but a single shard; buried in the back of Sango's brother, the hapless Kohaku, it was now the only factor keeping Kagome from restoring the jewel to completion.

Kagura had handed them their defeat of Naraku. The typical avid greed for blood was absent in from her face, Kagome had noted throughout the fight, and her attacks had seemed lackluster, lacking Kagura's usual glee at causing pain and disrupting their lives in general.

No one had expected the demoness to zip along on her feather-boat, swerve behind her creator-father Naraku, and snag the chain holding his half of the Shikon from around his neck. But her vicious smile of pleasure as the metal bit into the flesh of his throat, leaving a thin line of blood, had been positively luminous.

She'd tossed it toward Kagome with a rather worrying coy smile, then floated away as quickly as her feather could take her. Her parting words of, "Use well the gift I have given you, miko," echoed across the battlefield, and there was only Naraku to defeat.

And it was Naraku, too—not a puppet, not one of his incarnations. Really, truly him. Funny thing, though: he wasn't much of a challenge, now that the Shikon's power wasn't feeding him, and Inuyasha's relentless use of Tetsusaiga was battering him almost into a paste.

His handsome face was a bloody mess; his nose was nothing more than pulverized cartilage, and a cut across his forehead ran a steady stream of blood into his eyes. Still, he fought on, sending wave after wave of demons at them. The few that escaped the Kaze no Kizu were sucked up by Miroku's Kazaana or sliced to ribbons by Sango's Hiraikotsu.

Kagome felt pretty useless, all told.

She stood with Shippo on the perimeter of the battlefield, bow and arrow in hand, ready and even willing to do her part. But she had to admit that there wasn't really anything for her to do beside guard the jewel.

"I can't believe it's almost over, Kagome," Shippo said, smiling over at her with bright, eager eyes. Seven years after joining her and Inuyasha in their quest for the jewel and Naraku, he was just a head shorter than her now and growing bigger daily. "I just wish there were something for me to do." He bounced on his fox feet, apparently feeling just as futile as Kagome at the moment.

"You never know!" she told him, forcing some cheer into her voice. "There might be something we're needed for, after all."

He grinned and nodded, his gaze back on the fight. Inuyasha was jeering at his opponent, insulting his dependence on other demons to fight his battles, and Naraku had apparently taken it to heart because he stopped expelling demons from his black soul, instead rising up on a mass of black tentacles and using them to strike at the hanyou.

One curled around Inuyasha's ankle; he sliced it off effortlessly. Kagome expected it to regenerate immediately but when it didn't, she realized that Naraku really was crippled without his shards. Sango, Kirara, and Miroku leapt forward and began to attack as well.

Naraku snarled at them and emitted thick, viscous clouds of miasma. Immediately, Sango and Miroku were driven back, but Inuyasha and Kirara soldiered on.

"I can't see where he is!" They heard Inuyasha yell as the cloud grew bigger and bigger. Soon it was obscuring almost everything around them, knocking Sango and Miroku to their knees. Kirara roared in the distance, apparently quite frustrated as well by the lack of visibility.

Kagome nocked an arrow and felt the familiar pull on her shoulders as she drew back the string, aiming toward the general centre of the miasma but not releasing. "Inuyasha!" she exclaimed. "Get out of the miasma! I don't want to hit you!"

Then she, and Shippo as well, began coughing as the miasma began to affect even them. Her watering eyes could barely make out the shapes of Inuyasha and Kirara as they alighted on the ground nearby.

"Now, Kagome!" Inuyasha shouted. "Shoot the bastard now!"

She closed her eyes, murmuring a word of prayer, and then released her arrow into the midst of the roiling black haze. The glowing pink missile burnt through the miasma, clearing it away, purifying the very air around them until it fairly sparkled, and when it was gone, they all gazed eagerly toward where Naraku had last been seen…

…only to find there was nothing there but an empty baboon pelt.

"Is he dead?" Shippo demanded, his voice rending the silence. "Is he, is he?"

They all turned to Miroku, still sitting on the ground. He unwrapped the prayer beads binding his hand and cautiously peeled back the glove, then wrapped it back up quickly when the familiar roar of his Kazaana began to sound. Eyes bleak, he said not a word, but stared up at them and shook his head.

The wind whispered by, and carried with it the sound, ever so faint, of mocking laughter. Kagome's heart sank, her shoulders slumped, and her bow dangled from suddenly-limp fingers. "No," she said quietly, her gaze lifting to meet Inuyasha's as he, too, comprehended what had just happened. "Naraku managed to escape while we were blinded by the miasma."

Inuyasha's scream of outrage echoed off the trees, the rocks, the very clouds overhead. Breathing hard, he clenched and unclenched his fists, his eyes wild with fury, before stomping over to a tree and wrenching it from the ground. Digging in his claws, he began to heft it up and down, using it to beat at a large boulder nearby as a way of venting his rage.

Miroku stood, then helped Sango to her feet, his hands for once keeping to innocuous places. They all watched Inuyasha, each wishing they too had the strength to use trees to bludgeon rocks into powder.

"Hey, Kagome," Shippo said with indomitable optimism, "at least we have all of the Shikon except for one bit, huh?" Sango's downcast gaze served to remind everyone that the only shard yet to be retrieved, the only bit not in their possession, was the one animating her brother Kohaku. Shippo sighed, sorry he'd depressed his friend.

Still breathing heavily from his temper tantrum, Inuyasha dropped what was left of the tree beside the fragments of the boulder and dusted off his hands on his hakama, making his way over to the rest of the group.

"Go on, then," he commanded, eyes alight with eagerness and a certain avarice. "Put it all together."

Kagome brought her hands to each other, meaning to join the two almost-halves, but as soon as her palms were cupped around their slight, cool weight a strange sensation filled her. It was a little like when she felt a shard was near, only with the addition of a huge amount of unease and trepidation. Confused, she stared up at Inuyasha's impatient face as she tried to figure it out. All she could think was that she must not do it.

"No," she said, her voice wobbling a little, "I can't. Not right now. The time's not right."

"Whaaat?" Inuyasha demanded, eyebrows waggling fiercely. "Don't be stupid. Of course the time is right. You put it together, we get the last shard" —Sango winced at this— "and then I get my wish, dammit."

"No," Kagome repeated stubbornly. "It's not the right time to put it together."

"Why not, Kagome-san?" Miroku asked calmly. He was leaning rather heavily on his staff and Kagome saw, for the first time, that his leg was injured. She felt guilty for not noticing earlier. Some friend I am, she thought glumly, but was dragged from her internal scolding by Inuyasha's grouchy expression.

"I'm not sure why not," she admitted. "You're just going to have to trust me."

"Trust you!" Inuyasha shouted. "You're the one who shattered it in the first place!"

"And you never get tired of telling me that, either!" Kagome shouted back. It had been years since she'd committed that gravely inopportune mistake, seven to be exact, and while she didn't blame him for being tired of shard-hunting, she also resented being reminded of her error at every opportunity. "It's not the right time to do it. If you don't agree with me, you can put it together yourself, Inuyasha."

Then she folded her arms and turned her back on him, knowing there was no one else who could perform the feat in her place. No one but...

"Fine," he said snidely, and held out his hand. "Give 'em to me. I'll just find Kikyo and see what she can do."

"She still hates you," Shippo reminded him, a trifle nastily as he was distinctly unhappy how the hanyou was being mean to Kagome. "She would rather shatter it again than help you join it all together."

Inuyasha glared daggers at the little kitsune and made as to grab for him, but Kagome planted one hand in the centre of his chest and pushed with both physical and spiritual force. She'd gained more control over her powers in latter years, thanks to Kaede's patient tutelage, and had no problem keeping Inuyasha from maiming Shippo. For the time being, at least.

"Forget it," she told him firmly. "Naraku's still out there, and we don't know whose side Kikyo's on. I'm not letting you hand all of the Shikon but one shard over to his ally." She turned to Sango, in whose arms rested Kirara, and addressed the cat-demon. "Can you take us back to the village? Kaede should look at Miroku, and I need to go home for a while." She sighed. "I'm tired."

"Keh," Inuyasha grumbled, but helped Miroku mount the fire cat while Kagome settled the still-shaken Sango on Kirara's back. Then he turned to face away from Kagome, leaning over so she could climb on his back. "What's the hold-up?" he snarled over his shoulder when her weight was not immediately forthcoming.

Turning, he saw that she, too, had boarded Kirara. Her face was inscrutable and weary. "No, thanks, Inuyasha," she said quietly. "See you back at Kaede's."

She felt bad, as they flew through the cooling early evening air toward the village, to remember the expression of regret on his face. She knew that he never really meant any of his harsh words or insults, but even after all these years it still hurt. A pang of self-loathing flitted through her. Why couldn't she toughen up? Why did she allow Inuyasha the power to hurt her still?

She was asking for trouble, being so sensitive and thin-skinned where he was concerned. Her guilt over shattering the Shikon, and therefore his dream of becoming full youkai, had wrecked her life in the modern era. She'd scarcely managed to graduate high school and with grades and attendance as poor as hers, there was no chance she'd get into university.

Her mother and grandfather had never said anything, but she could almost feel the waves of disappointment that came from them in her presence. She was twenty-two years old, an adult, and had nothing to show for herself. No advanced education, no career, and even the faithful Houjo had years earlier moved onto greener pastures, as it were.

She couldn't blame him. Who wanted to date a girl who'd nearly flunked out of school and supposedly had terrible health problems? A girl with few to no prospects for the future? The only thing Kagome had going for her was her heritage as a member of a shrine family, and even that was an increasingly spurious advantage in these less religious times.

Kagome tangled her fingers in Kirara's soft fur and bowed her head, only realizing she'd been crying when the air whipping past them dried her tears. She felt lost, and had for years now. Inuyasha would never be able to love her as she needed. Sometimes she felt that he'd given all his ability to show affection to Kikyo, and there was none left over for her or anyone else.

Sometimes she thought of accepting Kouga's persistent claims of her as his woman. At least someone wanted her, she'd think, a little desperate to belong somewhere, to be seen as more than a burden. But that was too self-pitying even for her, and wrong, too. She couldn't use Kouga like that.

Kirara touched down lightly in the dirt path before Kaede's hut, and Kagome scrambled down to help Miroku to his feet. She barely registered his hand fondling her backside, idly brushing it away before looping his arm around her neck to assist him inside.

"Kagome-san," he said, hopping up the stairs, "what's wrong?"

She only shook her head, feeling immeasurably sad. "Just thinking." He was clearly unconvinced but accepting her answer with a nod, even as his keen gaze watched her closely.

Kaede's faint smile of welcome faded to see the monk's blood-stained robes, and she ushered him onto a pallet right away. Kagome stayed only long enough to hear Kaede's pronouncement that Miroku would soon make a full recovery before slinging her pack on her shoulder and making for the door.

She was reluctant to leave the cozy warmth of the hut and her friends, but she wanted to get to the well before Inuyasha returned. She knew he would argue with her about returning, and wanted to avoid it if possible.

Shippo trotted after her, talking a thousand miles a minute. "I can't believe Naraku got away, but we have all his shards! And poor Miroku, not only is his leg hurt but he's still cursed. Oh, Sango... she knows what we have to do to Kohaku, to get the last shard... that can't be easy for her..."

Kagome just nodded and murmured, the only response the excited kitsune seemed to require. "Thanks for walking me to the well, Shippo," she said when its squat silhouette was visible in the distance.

They walked the remainder of the way in silence as the cool blue shadows of dusk fell around them, and then Shippo said, "He didn't mean it, Kagome. You know that."

"He never does," she replied quietly, bracing her hands on the flat plank serving as the well's lip. It was rough against her palms, with jagged little bits she knew were just waiting to give her splinters. She wondered when she'd begun thinking that inanimate objects were out to get her, and sighed.

"Will you hurry back?" She glanced over her shoulder to see Shippo wringing his hands in distress. "I'll miss you."

Kagome hugged him. "I'll hurry back when I feel a little better," she promised. "I'll miss you, too." She vaulted over the side, managing to avoid the malicious intent of the splinter-giving wood, and breathed easier once the magic allowing the time shift surrounded her. She found herself floating, weightless. The stars twinkled in the vastness of space like diamonds, and she smiled faintly to see their bright beauty.

But it went on and on. She just kept floating, instead of being chucked out of the warp into her own modern era. What's going on? she thought, a little panicked, and tried to look around to see if there were another huge centipede youkai about to attack her in this strange non-place.

"Be calm," came a voice, musical and lilting, and instantly her anxiety vanished. Kagome felt a sickening lurch in her belly and suddenly was standing upright even though there was nothing below her but empty, black space. "No harm will come to you."

She spun around to find a woman behind her, long hair streaming down past her armour to her waist. She looked familiar... "Midoriko?" Kagome gasped as recognition popped like a soap bubble in her head.

The woman nodded, tilting her head back to stare at the starry sky that surrounded them in all directions. "There is one less star, have you noticed?" she said conversationally. "One less star, and the heavens weep for its loss."

Huh? "Are you talking about the last shard?" Kagome asked cautiously. "We know where it is, we just have to go get it... but it'll kill Kohaku."

"No," Midoriko replied, "I do not speak of the last shard, though we are relieved you are close to completing the jewel. We were concerned you would fail."

"We?" Kagome asked, trying desperately to understand the other woman's cryptic speech. "The other three souls beside you?"

Midoriko shook her head, glossy black hair swaying around her. "What do you know of other dimensions, child?" she asked instead.

"Other... huh?" Kagome was in grave danger of being hideously confused.

"Other dimensions... other realities," Midoriko replied patiently. "Are you aware that there are myriad realities? That you exist in infinite other places?"

"I huh?" Danger no longer... Kagome was officially baffled, and starting to become frightened again.

Midoriko touched Kagome's hand and instantly the fear receded to a bearable level, her eyes closing as a feeling of safety and comfort swept over her. When she opened her eyes again, however, her jaw fell open in shock, for behind Midoriko—surrounding both of them—were many, many women.

And not just any women. Her. Kagome.

They all looked a little different. Some were younger, some were middle-aged, some quite old; some were beautiful, some quite plain. But every single one of them was her, and it scared the hell right out of her.

"We are the others Midoriko spoke of," said one of the older Kagomes, her arthritic gait a little halting. "We feared you would not succeed in your reality, hampered as you are."

"Hampered? How am I hampered?" Kagome whispered. Her mind felt like it was caught in a dryer's spin-cycle, whirling round and round. She couldn't stop looking at them, studying their faces.

"By your protector in this reality," answered another one, this one rather fiercely scarred on her face and arms. "We were all disturbed to learn that Inuyasha is your guardian, instead of..." Her voice trailed away.

"Instead of who?" Kagome demanded. "What are you talking about?"

Midoriko stepped forward once more, the throng of Kagomes parting to let her through. "In every reality, the fates have declared that you will be paired with one who will assist your protection of the Shikon," she said. "Something went wrong in your reality... in all the others, Kikyo did not seal Inuyasha to the tree. She killed him outright. This is what has happened in all other realities."

Kagome thought hard. "So, if Kikyo wasn't supposed to seal Inuyasha, he wouldn't have been stuck to the Goshinboku, and I wouldn't have met him..." The other Kagomes were nodding, some even smiling. "So, what would have happened?"

"That is where the realities all differ," answered a third Kagome, this one ethereally lovely, with a face that could make an angel weep with envy. "In my reality, I was kidnapped by a warlord, to be made his concubine." She sighed. "Beauty is not always a blessing."

"In mine," said a fourth Kagome, this one seeming to be in her fifties, "I lived with Kaede, training with her until she died, and then became the village's miko."

"I was captured by Naraku," said a fifth, rather plain Kagome.

"On and on it goes," Midoriko intoned. "Yet in all realities, Kagome, there is one constant."

It sounded ominous. "What is it?" she asked, her voice a mere whisper.

"Our protector," said Beautiful Kagome.

"Our guardian," added Scarred Kagome.

"Our husband," finished Elderly Kagome.

Kagome blinked. "Husband?" She felt her equilibrium waver once more, and once more Midoriko soothed her. "If Inuyasha's supposed to be dead, then who is it?" She frowned. "Kouga?"

Plain Kagome laughed. "Not hardly," she said. "That one could never keep up with us."

Kagome thought harder. "Miroku?" Though the monk had wandering hands, he was very handsome, and she'd never admit it but his voice had a way of making a girl a little shivery down the spine...

"You could never keep up with him," replied Scarred Kagome with a smile.

Kagome wracked her brain for other eligible males, and paled when one sprung to mind... "Not Shippo," she gasped. "Don't tell me it's Shippo."

All the other Kagomes looked faintly queasy. "Not Shippo," Elderly Kagome assured her, and Kagome sighed with relief.

"Then who?" she demanded. "I can't think of anyone else."

The others looked vaguely disturbed at this. "Can you not?" asked Middle-Aged Kagome. "Is there no other man in your life who draws your interest, who makes your soul sing with completion?"

Kagome stared at her. Okay, she thought, if it's none of the good guys, then it must be one of the bad guys. "Not Naraku," she stated, relieved when they nodded. "Um. Hiten?"

Elderly Kagome smiled. "Handsome, that one, but no." Seeing Kagome pale once more, she continued, "And no, not Manten either."

"Can you think of no other?" asked Scarred Kagome.

She could not, and said so. As one, they all turned to Midoriko, who took a deep breath before speaking.

"Long ago, Kagome, it was fated that the mikos connected to the Shikon—you, me, and Kikyo—would have a connection to a certain family. A certain youkai family," she clarified. "We were meant to cross the boundaries between races, to mend the rift between us, to bring about a harmony where before had existed only hatred and death."

Midoriko clasped her hands tightly before her, staring down at them, her voice almost too soft to be heard as she continued. "I loved Inutaisho," she declared, and Kagome was amazed at the depth of longing and pain in those three words. "I still love him, though we are parted until my soul is released from the Shikon. Our love was the beginning of the bond, the first stitch of the needle meant to close the rip between ningen and youkai worlds."

Kagome gaped at her. "Inutaisho? Inuyasha's father? You were in love with Inuyasha's father?" She was stunned. There hadn't been mention of that in any of the legends she'd heard of the famous miko's life.

"No one knew but we two," Midoriko replied. "We had so little time... so little time..." Tears streamed down her cheeks, but she ignored them. "Then there was Kikyo," she continued, determined to go on. "Kikyo loved Inuyasha, loved him with a passion bordering on madness. When she thought he had betrayed her... it did become madness. In all dimensions but your own, she slew him, and then died, herself. There is a special level of hell reserved for those who harm their love, but Inuyasha's devotion to her was no less than her own... willingly he followed her to hell, and willingly he remains, with her always."

She eyed Kagome with pity. "This shall be his fate in your reality, too. Always have you lamented his inability to love you in return. This is the reason. You are not meant to be his, nor is he to be yours."

"But, who then—" Kagome stopped short as realization burst into her mind. "Oh, god," she moaned. "If there's a bond between the mikos and the youkai of that family—and if it's not Inuyasha I'm supposed to be with—oh, god. Please don't tell me it's Sesshoumaru." She buried her face in her hands and muttered, "I'd prefer to marry Jaken."

Plain Kagome stepped forward then, and to Kagome's amazement, slapped her hard. "How dare you," she hissed, face alight with fury, and suddenly she wasn't so plain anymore. "How dare you malign him? In every one of our dimensions, he has defended you, protected you, loved you beyond duty, or even reason."

Beautiful Kagome approached, her soothing touch on Plain Kagome's arm calming the other somewhat, but her expression was of carefully controlled anger. "You don't know him like we do," she said, her voice arctic, "and it upsets us to hear you mock and dismiss him like that."

Kagome held her sore cheek as tears started in her eyes. "But... but Sesshoumaru hates humans! He hates me! He's tried to kill me a dozen times!" She remembered one time, three years previously, that he'd nearly succeeded. Only Miroku's timely use of his Kazaana had saved her. She could still see, in her mind's eye, the glowing green poison that had streamed from Sesshoumaru's claws as he'd prepared to rake them across her throat...

And only a few months ago, he'd actually caught Sango's Hiraikotsu and flung it back at them, nearly taking them all out with a single throw. Only Inuyasha's agility had saved them, the hanyou taking the blow meant for the humans. It had nearly killed him, and he'd taken weeks to fully recover from his wounds. Briefly, she described these incidents to them.

The other Kagomes looked stunned, and turned to Midoriko. "Is this true?" Elderly Kagome asked the miko, her face troubled.

Midoriko nodded slowly, and immediately the area was filled with the protesting voices of all the Kagomes around them. "Impossible!" one declared, while another burst into noisy tears. "Perhaps he just pretended to try to kill her to hide his love for her?" suggested a third, clearly unable to accept that there might be a Sesshoumaru out there somewhere who was somewhat unpleasant.

"This is too weird," Kagome muttered to herself. She felt like the top of her head was about to come off. Try as she might, there was nothing she could imagine that would inspire her to such absolute devotion and faithfulness to Sesshoumaru. He was handsome, of course—on a scale of one to ten for good looks, he ranked in the upper hundreds—but he was so unfeeling and cruel and cold.

"Is he, though?" Midoriko asked, and Kagome realized she'd said those last words aloud. "Think harder, and tell me if your belief bears scrutiny. Think of the child, Rin. Would he restore her to life, would he raise her as his own daughter, if he were truly unfeeling and cruel? And think of Sesshoumaru's prowess with claw and blade. Like my Inutaisho, he cannot be defeated unless he allows the defeat. Why, then, does Inuyasha still live? Why do you?"

"There is something that holds him back," declared Scarred Kagome. "Though he doesn't know it yet."

Kagome stared mutely at Midoriko. "There is mercy in him," the miko continued, "mercy and kindness and love. It is not the love of a human, but still it is there." She smiled faintly. "Once you can see it as such, there is no missing it."

Kagome remembered how Sesshoumaru had stabbed his entire hand through Inuyasha's belly, the scene replaying in her mind in a constant loop. "I'm sorry," she said at last. "I just can't believe it." She turned in a slow circle, entreating the other Kagomes to believe her. "You don't know what he's done to us over the years, how he's attacked us."

"And yet you live," reminded Midoriko. "If he wanted you dead, you would be."

"So I'm supposed to infer, since I'm still alive, that he wants me that way?" Kagome demanded, rolling her eyes when the other Kagomes nodded and smiled, obviously pleased she'd finally understood. "You've got to be kidding me," she said flatly. "If just existing is proof that Sesshoumaru loves me, then he must by definition also love everything else on the planet that he hasn't killed yet."

"Don't be obtuse," Elderly Kagome said severely. "Sesshoumaru has spared your life because he wants you to live."

"But why?" Kagome wailed, confusing bursting over her like an ocean wave. "Why?"

"One things you will learn about our Sesshoumaru," said Plain Kagome, "is that his immense patience is matched only by his curiosity."

Kagome felt distinctly queasy. The idea of his being 'her' Sesshoumaru made her stomach lurch alarmingly, as did the notion that she was going to get to know him better. "I don't understand," she said pitifully.

"He is curious about your power, and wants to learn more," clarified Beautiful Kagome. "That's how we all met him, in our dimensions. He heard about us, and wanted to know what was going on with the reincarnated miko."

"He is just waiting for the right moment to do something about it," added Scarred Kagome, and smiled at her sisters, all agreed in analyzing Sesshoumaru's motives.

"When's the right moment?" Kagome shouted, her patience all but gone. "When he punches another hole through Inuyasha? When he finally goes through with ripping my throat out?"

They all sighed, and turned once more to Midoriko. "It would seem," the miko said at last, "that you require more proof than our mere testimony."

"Darn right, I do," Kagome muttered, arms folded over her chest.

Midoriko nodded then, and a blurry sphere of glowing indigo seemed to float out the top of each Kagomes' head. One by one, they coursed slowly through the air toward Kagome. As each entered her, her body jolted, and consciousness quickly faded.

Finally the last sphere had burrowed into her, and Midoriko allowed the girl to pass out of their presence, leaving the time slip and entering her own era. Up out of the well Kagome's still form floated, coming to rest on the ground inside the shed where the well was housed.

"Will that be enough?" asked Elderly Kagome, back in the void. "Will our memories of our lives with him be enough to convince her to right this wrong?"

Midoriko sighed. "It must be," she said. "If she cannot overcome her distaste for him, I do not care to think of the repercussions to her world, for only with Sesshoumaru at her side can she finally defeat Naraku. Without him... her world will end."